Midseason Diversity Check-In

From what I’ve noticed of this season’s midseason finales, is that it’s been a rough one. Characters have died left and right, been fired, gone missing, etc — I’M SO WORRIED ABOUT ABUELA! — and a whole bunch of other trials that don’t even happen at season finales! But let’s check in with some of our new and returning characters of color this season. How are they doing as characters and how are their shows faring so far this season?

[a few midseason finale spoilers below, particularly Sleepy Hollow, Scandal and Jane the Virgin. Proceed at your own risk.]

Sleepy Hollow

They did what to who? #RIPBelovedCharacter

Over on Sleepy Hollow, it seems like Abbie (Nicole Beharie) has been getting the short end of the stick and fans are noticing. I’m three episodes behind, but from what I saw before I needed to catch up and what I’ve heard with regard to the over-inclusion of Katrina and the killing of Captain Irving (Orlando Jones), it seems that what we once loved about Sleepy Hollow is being written out of existence. (Killing Irving feels a bit like the Black Guy Dies First trope, honestly. Though John Cho’s character did die last season and he was also a major character. That felt more nuanced, however, and Orlando Jones was promoted to main cast and then killed off, so it certainly speaks to the typical horror trope. Le sigh.) Here’s hoping that Irving is magically resurrected and brings new life back to the show. Also, less Katrina. Hopefully this is mere sophomore slump and things will turn around, but if they don’t do it soon enough, it won’t make it to a season 3.

Gotham

Jada Pinkett Smith Fish Mooney

Gotham’s downfall but the show’s saving grace?

One time slot later, Jada Pinkett-Smith has been owning things as Fish Mooney in Gotham City, but can she save an otherwise kinda dull show? I’m also three episodes behind on that one, but I’m not sure I have the desire to tune in again. Fish is the brightest (visually, and she’s definitely up there intellectually) and most interesting character on the show (Penguin holds about even in most fans opinions), so hopefully they give her enough to do. But I’m a little bored by Gotham so far.

Jane the Virgin

Villanuevas

Sorry Sleepy Hollow, but if you continue the way you’re going, Jane the Virgin is going to get my Mondays at 9pm live-viewing points. It’s one of the best shows, new or old, on television now, flawlessly weaving from comedy to drama to mystery to melodrama in the blink of an eye without losing its momentum. Definitely the strongest writing of the season, especially for a new show. The Golden Globes recently recognized nominated it for Best Comedy, as well as star Gina Rodriguez for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. I’m not holding my breath that they’ll win, but hey, miracles happen. My only concern for Jane (besides what happened to Abuela in the midseason finale — !! –) is how long can they stretch the premise? I can see the show going one strong season and maybe a season 2, but what are the plans for after she has the baby and for when she’s perhaps, no longer a virgin? Will the show just outlive it’s title? It seems that audiences have shown, with their lack of patience for will-they/won’t they, that they won’t be content to be strung along to wait for Jane to marry a suitor. So far, I’ve been no reason to not trust the creative team, but the concern is in the back of my mind. (Side note: After writing about Sleepy Hollow’s death above, I’ve realized that Zazz’s death was also “Black Guys Dies First”… ::sigh::)

The Flash

Iris and Barry

You’ve got a lot cut out for you, Iris, if you want us to love you as much as we love your dad. And to ship you with Barry, rather then the SnowBarry love that’s snowballing through Central City.

I love The Flash. I love Joe West, played by the impeccable Jesse L. Martin. He and Barry (Grant Gustin) have amazing father-son chemistry and usually at least once per episode, a scene between them pulls at your heart-strings. Iris (Candice Patton), on the other hand, has a little ways to go. Barry loves her — this is great for black women being presented as the love interest, especially since she’s not a black female stereotype. But is she too tame in the other direction? I don’t want a sassy black girl — been there, done that ad nauseam– but she’s a bit perfect in every way which makes her a little boring. She also never realized that her so-called best friend is in love with her and has super powers — makes her seem a little self-absorbed. Candice is lovely, I like her a lot, but I think her character needs to find her purpose a little more. We don’t want a Laurel situation…

Shondaland: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder

The ladies of Shondaland!

We already know that Shondaland Thursdays has been knocking it out of the park. And we already know that Shonda Rhimes’ shows have always been champions for diversity as well as color-blind casting (both purposely casting people of color as well as not limiting non-specific casting to only white actors). And this season has been no different. Meredith Grey has a black sister (Kelly McCreary) on Grey’s Anatomy (which I no longer watch outside of the 5 minutes before Scandal comes on)! Scandal’s Olivia is trying to get past her romantic hang ups and finally choosing herself — though it looks like someone else wants to choose her too and kidnapped her to have her. Meanwhile, Joe Morton continues to give the best monologues on television while being deliciously evil! And while we’re all here for Viola Davis (and her manipulative ways) and Alfie Enoch (and his perpetual confusion) being our lead actors, surprise audience interest perhaps goes to Oliver (Connor’s bf played by Conrad Ricamora) and Detective Bae (I mean Nate) played by Billy Brown. All three shows have Image Award nominations, while Viola alone will hold down Shondaland at this year’s Golden Globes (though award for best giraffe goes to Alfie) for How to Get Away With Murder. When we return from hiatus, I can only imagine where these shows will go!

black-ish

black-ish cast

Say “hi” to several NAACP Image Awards

In the comedy arena, black-ish has been holding strong, being touted as ABC’s #1 new comedy this season (I think ABCs cancelled most of their other ones already…). It’s already snagged a few NAACP Image Award nominations for Best Comedy, Leading Actor and Actress in a Comedy, as well as some supporting actor and actress noms. The show is quickly finding it’s legs and allowing for more diverse conversations on race to happen on the show — my initial hesitance with it stemmed from a kind of one note portrayal of how black people should be (coming from Anthony Anderson’s character Andre), but I think as Dre learns that his family is still black no matter what they like to do or eat or play, hopefully America learns this lesson too. Shows like this are important in bringing different perspectives into the homes of those who may not (somehow) interact with black people on an even weekly basis. Plus, I am loving Tracee Ellis-Ross and young Marsai Martin is a scene stealer. She’s really going places. Keep a look out for a Black Girl Nerds podcast featuring some of the cast members of this show.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Look at this beautifully diverse cast!

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been holding it down on Sundays. I still think it’s a terrible time slot and foolish to split up the comedies on the network, but it’s a great show that has been giving more and more focus to the two Latinas (Amy [Melissa Fumero] and Rosa [Stephanie Beatriz]) and the black men (Terry [Terry Crews] and Captain Holt [Andre Brauer]). Just looking at the cast photo, it’s really wonderful to see that not only does the show realize you can have more than one black person at a time, you can ALSO have more than one Latina person at a time. Very few other shows (outside of Shondaland) realize that. Not that it couldn’t be even better with some Asian, Native American, Indian or Arab representation; but even without, it’s doing much better than a lot of shows even on this list in terms of a wider range of diverse characters. Though it wasn’t nominated this year, I am still incredibly proud of it winning the Golden Globe for best comedy last year. And Andre Brauer has been getting more and more kudos for his hilarity even while playing the incredibly staid character of Captain Holt– he’s even been nominated for an NAACP award this year.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Cristela (Cristela Alonzo) is holding steady with a full season pick up! I haven’t been watching it, but it the few tweets I’ve seen about it say that it’s still pretty funny. Though I suppose your mileage may vary.
  • Fresh Off the Boat hasn’t premiered yet, but it will soon add some Asian representation to the network landscape.
  • Not really a network TV show, but I must say I am getting more and more excited for The Minority Report — I mean The Nightly Show Starring Larry Wilmore. I’m still sad they can’t use the title Minority Report…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iX6xoYMNJfw

We Still Have Some Work To Do:

Ted Grant Arrow

Gotta fight for better representation of your fello Latinos, Ted. I mean esse.

In less than stellar representation is Arrow (shame on you, one of my favorite shows this season!), for their portrayal of Latinos in one episode this season and for once again whitewashing R’as al Ghul (though your mileage may vary on whether having a brown person play this character benefits representation).

Sadly, John Cho’s Selfie was cancelled. I didn’t watch it, but the few who have are growing to love it before just as they watch it fall into the cancellation abyss. If you like, go #SaveSeflie over on Hulu! I must say that having an Asian-American get to play a romantic lead is awesome and hopefully Selfie’s downfall won’t stop future shows from casting Cho (or any other Asian actor) as their lead.

I feel like this is how we all look at Katherine Heigl…

State of Affairs was seriously underwhelming when I watched it, even Alfre Woodard (whose character is also named Constance) couldn’t compel me to watch episode 2 and its lukewarm reception leaves me wondering if it will survive its first 100 days on TV (I had to make a presidential joke, had to!).


That’s my TV midseason diversity check-in! I can’t watch everything on TV, so I may have missed some (didn’t a black character bite the dust on Agents of SHIELD? How’s Watson doing on Elementary or Michonne from The Walking Dead?) Some characters are on an upward swing, but others still have work to do. Either way, I am glad to see their faces and hope that there are more and more faces like theirs in seasons to come. The NAACP Image award television nominations had a lot of these actors (Viola, Gina, ), when last season they wouldn’t have had as many options, so there is some slow progress being made. The massive successes of especially How to Get Away With Murder and Jane the Virgin will hopefully finally show studios and networks that you can take a chance on people of color and unique storytelling and people will respond to it.

What other shows have PoC in them and how have they been treated this midseason? 

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Color Creative

Looks like I have some work to do…

 

Link: Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Stephanie Beatriz on Why Diverse Casts Are Needed on TV | Latina Roles on TV & Movies

Everyone PLEASE read this awesome blog post by actress Stephanie Beatriz on Latina.com. I love Brooklyn 99, not only because it’s funny and it’s so similar to Parks and Recreation (same showrunner, so duh on that part), but because it’s so diverse and tries to actually look like a New York police station. The fact that there are TWO black men and TWO Latina women on the show feels like a first on network TV (psh, cable even) and it shouldn’t. But it is and the fact that Stephanie didn’t think she had another shot on the show after Melissa Fumero was cast is absolutely ridiculous but completely indicative of how the business works for people of color.

I am so glad that there are two Latina women on the show and the one is the main love interest and neither are made to be stereotypes of their culture, they just are and they don’t compete for men or attention, they coexist like real human beings. Just the fact that they’re both on the show and have such different personalities is fantastic because it immediately disproves the idea that people of color can only fulfill one type at a time on any given show. Brooklyn 99 just makes me really happy and I am glad that in this dwindling age of network comedy, it’s a beacon of hope for both a brilliant, hilarious show, but also for the future of what television will look like. I quoted Stephanie below, but click through for more of her blog posts.

When I was waiting to hear about my screen test for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I started looking at Deadline.com constantly. It’s a website that often posts up to the minute casting news, and is pretty handy during pilot season if you want to drive yourself absolutely bananas. I checked it, at minimum, eight times an hour. I was a woman possessed, because this show was the thing I wanted more than anything in the world. And then I saw that Melissa Fumero had been cast as Amy Santiago on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and I felt my guts roll up into my throat and try to escape out of my mouth. Omgomgomgomg that’s it then. There’s no way in hell a major network is gonna cast two Latina actresses in such a tight ensemble show I AM SCREWED.

And then next day my agents called and told me I’d booked it.

I couldn’t believe it. I had been saying to my boyfriend the night before how there was JUST NO WAY. Normally, The Latina is a singular element of the ensemble she is working in. She’s there to provide contrast, or sexuality, or humor. Or she’s there to clean the floors and/or steal your man. There are some serious stereotypes very much alive in film and TV today, and The Latina is one of them.

Here’s the thing though. The world is changing. Slowly but surely, television is changing. The character stereotypes are changing, or being turned inside out by some fantastic writers and actors (I’m looking at you, Orange is the New BlackScandal, and The Mindy Project). People of color are on TV playing roles that are fleshed out, complex, human. And yes, some of those characters are maids. Some are sexy heartbreakers there to steal your man. Some own BBQ joints, while some are Chiefs of Staff. Some are prisoners, and some are cops. All are real people with hopes, dreams, ambitions, fears, and all the other vast human emotions and desires.

Right now, you can turn on your television or log onto your Netflix or Hulu account and SEE YOURSELF. Not always, and maybe not as much as you’d like, but you can. You can find characters who look like you. I couldn’t do that very often when I was a kid, and it subtly informed me that I might be kind of unimportant. Thank God for Luis and Maria (Sonia Manzano and Emilio Delgado) on Sesame Street, who were the first Latinos on TV I ever saw. I was fascinated by them both, and remember thinking how lucky I was that my mom looked just like Maria. I watched Sesame Street into junior high, simply because I loved seeing Maria and Luis on TV. In fact, in my memory, PBS was one of the only places I regularly saw people of all races on my television.

This is important. Because young women are watching TV, and they are getting messages about who they are in the world, who the world will allow them to be. And in big important steps, television is showing a reflection back to those young women that YOU CAN BE WHATEVER THE HELL YOU DAMN WELL PLEASE, and that two Latinas on one show is NORMAL. I think that’s a win for everybody. 

–Stephanie Beatriz

ABC Heralds Diverse Lineup Of Shows At TCA

“Let’s not pretend we’re there yet,” when it comes to the television industry accurately reflecting the demographics of America, ABC president Paul Lee said at the Television Critics Association press tour Tuesday. “I think we’re taking a very good step along that journey. But to be able to pull this off, you need not just stars on air […] [y]ou need the storytellers and you need the executives. I’m very proud of the fact that if you look at the executives who do development and do programming and marketing, across ABC, it’s a very diverse group of people.

via ABC Heralds Diverse Lineup Of Shows At TCA.

Seems like the president of ABC, Paul Lee isn’t trying to say they’ve reached Diversity (yes, capital D) on TV just yet, despite ABC’s wide selection of both supporting actors, leads, and full series that feature diverse families as the lead (though not sure how I feel about Asian “clan,” you already used family twice, either use three different words for family or all the same. Anyway–). It’s nice to see that ABC isn’t trying to say they’ve won anything or that there isn’t more work to be done. There definitely is.

Why it matters that FX’s ‘Tyrant’ didnt cast a Middle Eastern actor in its lead role

Why it matters that FX’s ‘Tyrant’ didnt cast a Middle Eastern actor in its lead role

Check out this Hit Fix article on new FX show Tyrant and the writer’s concerns about the lead actor, playing a Middle Eastern character, being cast as white.

That, friends, is why it is important that FX is premiering a new drama on Tuesday night in which the main character is an assimilated Middle Eastern man who leaves behind his life in the West and returns to the fictional nation ruled by his family.At least as a log-line, the part of Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed in FX’s “Tyrant” may not be unprecedented, but it represents a big enough deviation from the Hollywood norm and from the mainstream TV norm that it’s notable and worth discussion. And that’s why it’s not an insignificant problem that this role, this trailblazing step in Middle Eastern representation is being played by Adam Rayner, an English-born actor who is half-British, half-American and not Middle Eastern in the slightest.

[…]

In “Tyrant,” Al-Fayeed’s mother is, indeed, played by Alice Krige. That the potentate of a fictional Middle Eastern country was married to a white woman and had multiple children with her seems like something at least semi-worthy of discussion to me, but it’s never addressed in the first four episodes of “Tyrant.” Her mere presence is mostly an excuse for allowing Adam Rayner to play Bassam Al-Fayeed, as if casting an actor with no Middle Eastern heritage in TV’s only top-of-the-call-sheet Middle Eastern role would be bad, but casting an actor with no Middle Eastern heritage in TV’s only top-of-the-call-sheet *half* Middle Eastern role is totally halal. 

#sigh Even when roles are written for diverse characters, they find a way to make it acceptable to cast white instead of searching for someone with a more ethnic background.

 

You should definitely click through for more, because if I copy and pasted all of the really good points, I would just be copying the whole article. Check it out.

via Why it matters that FX’s ‘Tyrant’ didnt cast a Middle Eastern actor in its lead role.